Residents Voice Concerns at Clinton Hill Town Hall on Migrant Shelters

Residents in Clinton Hill packed a Town Hall Meeting on Friday, May 31. Photo: Tareq Saghie.

By: Tareq Saghie

Over 200 Brooklyn residents packed a Town Hall meeting on Friday night to voice their displeasure over the city’s management of the Hall Street migrant shelter complex in Clinton Hill, where many speakers asked for the closure of the emergency shelters.

Anger filled the Brooklyn Masonic Temple as several elected officials spoke, which included Councilmember Crystal HudsonNew York State Attorney General Letitia James and Camille Joseph Varlack, Chief of Staff to Mayor Eric Adams.

Many in the vocal crowd were unwilling to accept anything short of terminating the shelter’s contract, reportedly totaling $45 million to RXR Realty, set to expire in March.

“More resources won’t cut it. The fundamental problem is the size,” said Alia McKee Martinez, a resident whose speech opened the event. “This plea is not NIMBY. I am speaking with my conscience against the practice of mass warehousing thousands of people.” (NIMBY refers to “Not In My Back Yard.”)

Residents expressed fears that the complex is changing the neighborhood, saying that the estimated 4,000 asylum seekers are taking away parks, filling the air with marijuana smoke and committing crimes.

New York Attorney General Letitia James spoke as a resident, not in her official capacity. Photo: Tareq Saghie for BK Reader

James criticized the absence of state officials at the meeting.

“Is there a representative here from our Assembly office? What about the Senator? Where are representatives from Jabari Brisport’s office,” she asked, referring to the state senator that represents the 25th Senate District.

“Clearly this should be a multi-governmental approach to the situation in this community,” she said.

James said she did not attend the meeting in her capacity as an Attorney General, when asked about her office’s involvement. “I’m here in my capacity as a resident,” James said.

Varlack, who was one of four representatives from the mayor’s office who attended the meeting, defended the city’s management of the shelters.

“This is a national crisis and it warrants a national response,” Varlack said to a chorus of boos.

For example, once the City got word that there was drug dealing and sex work happening around Ryerson Street, the police now have a 24-7 presence in the area, she said.

To which someone in the crowd yelled “That’s not what we want!” to cheers.

Renee Collymore, the Democratic Liaison for the 57th Assembly District who organized the Town Hall, said many residents were concerned about the mental well being of the migrants.

“We know that [Letitia James] is going to come through for us, and we just ask Crystal Hudson if we could all just be together on this,” said Collymore, who lost to Hudson in the Democratic Primary for the council seat in 2021.

Hudson, asked to speak right before the question and answer period, said she was seeking more funding to pay for a variety of services for asylum seekers.

“In addition to more resources for folks, we need to see people housed in smaller, more humane environments,” she added.

Some residents were not happy that Hudson was absent from prior public meetings about the shelter. Hudson said she missed the last Town Hall on May 6 to respond to a fire.

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